Business

QuickHire Founders Raised $1.4M – Their Best Career Advice

Deborah Gladney, 34, and Angela Muhwezi-Hall, 32, are members of a small but growing club of million-dollar black founding women.

The sisters are the creators of QuickHire, a recruitment platform that connects workers to service jobs and skilled trades. In November, QuickHire attracted $1.41 million in an oversubscribed funding round, making Gladney and Muhwezi-Hall the first black women in Kansas to raise over $1 million for a startup, according to AfroTech.

This is a feat for any entrepreneur, but especially when you consider that black female startup founders received just 0.34% of the total $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups in the first half of 2021. according to Crunchbase.

When the sisters launched their venture in March 2020, Gladney was pregnant with her third child and Muhwezi-Hall was admitted to the hospital after contracting Covid-19. They have weathered the uncertainty of the pandemic, witnessed race riots during anti-George Floyd protests, skimped on investing $50,000 of their own savings, and faced microaggressions during fundraising. A beta version of QuickHire was launched in fall 2020 and the finished product was released to the public in April 2021.

Today, QuickHire employs more than 11,000 job seekers at 60 medium to large service companies in Wichita, Kansas and Kansas City. During the Great Retirement, QuickHire’s data also proves that businesses need to provide jobs that are better for the working class – jobs with good pay, stable hours, health insurance and future careers – if they ever hope to fill vacancies.

CNBC Make It spoke to the two sisters for the best career advice and how it helped them launch their very first $1 million business.

“Never let anyone see you sweat”

The most important career advice that Gladney takes to heart comes from a former boss: “Never let anyone see you sweat.”

“So much power in not giving other people the power to know they’re outperforming you in every situation,” says Gladney.

Gladney says the experience of promoting QuickHire and raising money has not been without bias and micro-aggressions – situations “when people said or did something, and if we showed them that they got to us, I think they would be able to stop us .”

Gladney recalls approaching investors and feeling that “everything is against us.” They applied but were rejected by the accelerator programs, “and it left a bad taste in my mouth. The reasons why we were denied were simply not very clear. And it got us thinking, isn’t it because we black women are doing this?”

This is an all-too-common scenario for women and color founders. in the world of venture capital, where the majority of investors are white males. “We felt we had to sit down at a table with more income or more confirmation than our peers because we knew we couldn’t raise unless we made it even more convenient for [investors] take a chance,” says Gladney.

Gladni and Muhwezi-Hall almost gave up trying to get into the accelerator program until they had one motivational meeting with the managing director of the TechStars Iowa accelerator. They got into the accelerator, and their growth went uphill.

Gladney says she relies on a few key people, including her sister, husband and father, to deal with the frustrations of being a black female founder in the tech industry.

“They get everything from me,” she says, “but it helps me go out there and fight the world.”

“You need to go grow”

Muhwezi-Hall says the best advice she ever received was that you should “grow up.”

“Sometimes in life, especially in your career, you have to get out of your comfort zone to find opportunities to advance and broaden your horizons,” she says. “You have to take risks for yourself.”

On the Muhwezi Hall side, QuickHire’s seeds were actually planted back in 2017 when she was a college and career counselor at Los Angeles High School. She had many resources to offer to those who were about to go to college, but few resources for students heading into service jobs or skilled trades. Rough 108 million peopleor 71% of the workforce are in the service industry – why weren’t there better ways to link them to a stable career other than filling out paper job applications?

“It was an idea that we sat on for so many years,” Muhwezi-Hall says, adding that Gladney often encouraged her to bring it to life. The urgency of the pandemic, when she saw tens of millions of service workers lose their jobs, made her reprioritize her idea.

Muwezi Hall and Gladni began construction on the QuickHire in March 2020. By August, Muwezi Hall had moved with her husband from Los Angeles to Gladney’s basement in Wichita, Kansas for seven months to continue construction. Muwezi-Hall and her husband have since moved to Chicago, and the sisters work together remotely and during in-person visits.

“At some point you need to move,” she says. “And if you are afraid to move, you will never grow. So that’s what I apply to everything: you have to go to grow.”

Check:

Alicia Guevara, New York City’s first Black and Hispanic CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, on being ‘the one’: ‘I didn’t have a plan for my leadership’

This 29 year old man started a business to support Black NFT artists and made $140,000 in 10 months.

$1.6 billion Skims co-founder: ‘I have a rule to do what scares you’

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